Effective Strategies for Hunting November Food Plots
By Jessica Graham
I always like getting settled into my treestand early in the morning. It is a chance to debrief from the world in peace and enjoy God’s creation. On this frosty November morning I was hunting over a 3-acre food plot consisting of brassicas and alfalfa. A particular buck was captured (by trail cameras) cruising for does reliably around 10 AM on the perimeter of the food plot. I had my decoy set quartering away from my stand. Behind some cedar trees I saw a tall tined rack emerge. He eagerly came in fast to check out my doe decoy. I drew my bow back and settled the 30-yard pin behind his shoulder as I squeezed the trigger on my release. My arrow found its mark. I used this food plot to my advantage to successfully fill my Iowa archery tag.
Over the past decade food plots have worked their way into the plans of many hunters. Thirty years ago, very few existed, and now most hunters have hunted over some man-made food source. A whitetail’s food often dictates its patterns and movement. Earlier in the year we saw deer feasting on September and October acorns, and radish plots. During November we often get consumed with hunting the rut and for a good reason – we see a lot of deer activity during daylight hours. Planning your hunting strategies around food might help you close the deal on an archery buck this November.
During this time, we are seeing more and more daylight activity from deer, and bucks are getting excited. They’re seeking out the first estrus does, but they’re still bulking up in preparation of full chase mode. Bucks can be seen checking area that does frequent. That means, if does are in or around your food plot, you can be sure a buck will be coming along shortly to check on the ladies. You might wonder what type of food would be good this time of year. Since we generally get a hard, killing frost in early October, we need to plant something that still provides attraction. Brassicas tend to be a good choice for fall food plots. Purple top turnips are putting energy into the bulbs and will increase the sugar content of the bulbs, making them attractive to deer during this point.
Clover and alfalfa are food sources that remain attractive for deer during the early part of November. Yes, the frost has set in, but deer still like to browse on clover and alfalfa, and will even dig through a little snow to get to it. For food sources in early November, hunt turnip patches and clover.
As November progresses, corn is picked and beans are cut. More and more food sources are disappearing as the rut continues to windup. Once the rut is in full swing, it can be difficult to reliably hunt food plots. Anything can happen during the rut.
Often times we notice tired does do not like a lot of exposure that are typical of our 1-5 acre food plots provide. A buck tending a doe will want her hidden away from other bucks. You can take advantage of this by imitating the set with a couple of decoys. If you have a bedded, doe decoy, use that paired with a buck decoy 15 yards away from your location in the food plot. It will look like a buck is watching a bedded doe. A buck might come in to try and challenge your buck decoy. You always run the risk of scaring off timid and young bucks with decoys, but they can also draw in curious bucks. If you do not have a bedded doe decoy, you can always take the legs off a standing doe decoy and set the torso on the ground of your food plot. It will look like a bedded doe to cruising deer. One food source that is often overlooked is growing winter cereal grains like rye or winter wheat. The winter annuals are young, green and palatable to deer.
To be honest, a lot of bowhunters don’t hunt the end of November as hard as the early and mid-parts of the month. A lot of tags have been filled, but we also get into family activities like Thanksgiving. The last 10 days of November can still hold a lot of promise for those who are still pursuing deer. There are two advantages to hunting late November: deer are active during daylight hours and they have lost significant weight during the “chase” portion of the rut. Some sources state bucks can lose more than 20 percent of their weight searching and chasing does. Both bucks and does are ready to put back on some fat for the fast-approaching winter. Your food plots during late November, and through 1st and 2nd gun season, are busy right now. Deer are recovering from the chasing and bulking up for the upcoming winter – and this one is predicted to be another harsh one. Additionally, colder weather, snow and ice continues to deplete the landscape of available food for deer. Again, hitting turnips, sugar beets and winter cereal grains can be hot spots for deer. Deer will dig through some snow to get to clover, but it continues to decay and snow can render it unavailable. If you have standing grains, like soybeans or corn, these food sources are more attractive than ever, especially if there is snow on the ground. Fall food plots can provide reliable encounters during this time, and you should definitely utilize the activity if you are bowhunting.
Among bowhunters, there is little argument that November is the favorite month of bowhunting in Iowa. Use food plots to your advantage, and hunt according to the deer movement in your area. Like anything, food plots can be used to help you locate and fill your bow tags. Good luck this month hunting!